By Simon Evans
ATLANTA (Reuters) - After a season where injuries threatened to derail their progress, the Green Bay Packers have hit express form at just the right moment.
The 48-21 win at the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, with Aaron Rodgers majestic at quarterback, takes the Packers into the NFC Championship game - just one win away from the Super Bowl.
The club from a lakeside city in Wisconsin with a rich history -- the Super Bowl prize, the Lombardi trophy, is named after their late coach Vince Lombardi who won the first two Super Bowls -- are sensing this could be their moment.
Defeats to Detroit and New England left Mike McCarthy's team needing to come up with something in the final two weeks of the season to even make it into the playoffs through the 'back door' of the wildcard round.
The Packers responded by crushing the New York Giants 45-17 and then beat the Chicago Bears on the final day of the regular season.
Their 'reward' was a trip to the Philadelphia Eagles where a 21-16 victory set up the clash with Atlanta, the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 regular season record.
The Packers made minced-meat of the Falcons, emptying the Georgia Dome with a performance that combined class and ruthless execution.
"We are a championship caliber football team," said coach McCarthy after the win.
"Before the Philadelphia Eagles game, we talked about focusing on the 16 quarters in front of us, and at this point we have completed eight quarters with four more to play next week. We feel good about who we are, how we played, our brand of football and that is what we are sticking to."
There certainly was a feel-good factor in the Packers locker-room after Saturday's win - Rodgers, a modest and likeable man, made no effort to conceal his happiness although it was expressed with a constant smile rather than whooping or fist-pumping.
But while Rodgers, rightfully, took the plaudits after throwing for three touchdowns, 366 yards and completing 31 of 36 passes, there are good signs all over the field.
"We feel good about where we're at. I know the defense is feeling it. We've got playmakers all over the board no matter who we play. No matter what they throw at us, we feel pretty good that we've got it together," said linebacker Clay Matthews.
Cornerback Tramon Williams had another outstanding performance, following his crucial end-zone interception at Philadelphia.
Williams made two picks, one a repeat of his leap against the Eagles and the other a grab-and-run for a 70-yard touchdown which shifted the momentum of the game firmly to Green Bay.
The cornerback, like Rodgers, was overlooked when it came to the vote for the Pro Bowl team but a cheeky grin appeared on his face when he was reminded of that slight on Saturday.
"I guess that's one way to shut people up - to go to the Super Bowl not the Pro Bowl," Williams said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans in Atlanta; Editing by Alan Baldwin)